The Cacao Grader Intensive

The Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (FCCI) Cacao Grader Intensive is a three-day training course in which participants learn fine cacao and chocolate grading techniques.

The information on this page is also available on this downloadable pdf.

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Course Description

This course prepares participants to evaluate fine cacao and chocolate quality with tested, research-based techniques. It combines in-depth lectures on fine cacao and chocolate with intensive hands-on training in cacao and chocolate sample preparation and analysis.

Lectures will cover the following topics:

  • history and culture of fine cacao and chocolate;
  • factors in fine cacao and chocolate quality – genetics and agronomy, post-harvest processing, storage and transport, and chocolate making;
  • science of cacao-chocolate flavor and sensory analysis;
  • supply chain – market basics, cacao sourcing, economics, politics, culture; and
  • ethics and transparency – social and environmental responsibility, certifications, models for success.

Hands-on training will develop the following skills:

  • external evaluation of raw cacao;
  • cut test;
  • cacao sample protocol and preparation;
  • cacao sample organoleptic evaluation;
  • sensory analysis techniques and exercises – e.g. defect tasting, sensory deprivation, triangulation, calibration;
  • development of sensory lexicon; and
  • tasting and evaluating chocolate liquor and finished chocolate.

Conducted in a small group setting, the course includes significant interaction with the instructors and fellow class members. Course materials have been developed in consultation with certified coffee Q grading instructors, chocolate industry experts, and scholars of sensory evaluation. The course is a pre-requisite for examinations in cacao grading certification.


While there are no set prerequisites, the course assumes some familiarity with cacao and chocolate liquor tasting. In addition, all participants are required to complete introductory readings and begin cacao sample preparation and evaluation practice prior to the class.

Who Should Attend

Who should attend:

  • Fine cacao and chocolate industry professionals for whom consistent, expert quality evaluation of cacao is a desired professional skill.


Colin Gasko is the Founder and President of Rogue Chocolatier, a small, authentic bean-to-bar manufactory located in Three Rivers, Massachusetts. Rogue sources the finest cacao and cleans, roasts, winnows, grinds, refines, conches, tempers, molds, and packages its award winning single-origin chocolates by hand. This craftsmanship brings out the unique flavors of cacao that honors its origins and qualities. Find Colin online at and @roguechocolate.

Carla D. Martin, PhD, is the Founder and Executive Director of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, a newly formed nonprofit organization devoted to identifying, promoting, and developing fine cacao and chocolate. An award-winning educator, she is also a Lecturer at Harvard University. Find her online at and @carladmartin.

Sample Schedule

A full syllabus will be made available to registered participants.

Before course:

  • Review syllabus
  • Complete introductory readings
  • Practice cacao sample preparation and evaluation

Day 1:

  • Introduction to fine cacao and chocolate [lecture]
  • Introduction to sensory analysis [lecture]
  • Defining fine cacao and chocolate quality [lecture]
  • Cacao external evaluation and cut test training [practicum]

Day 2:

  • Organoleptic exercises [practicum]
  • Cacao sample preparation and sensory evaluation training [practicum]
  • Fine cacao-chocolate quality chain of custody and ethics [lecture]
  • Chocolate liquor and finished chocolate tasting [practicum]

Day 3:

  • Sensory analysis techniques [practicum]
  • Calibration exercises [practicum]
  • Evaluation of cacao samples [practicum]

For More Information

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